University of Maryland Extension

Featured Plants - Ironwood


January 2013

Ironwood, Musclewood
Carpinus caroliniana

This is a native to cherish if you have one and nurture if you can get one. A small tree, it’s the bark that makes it stand out in a forest understory. Smooth and fluted, the bark suggests a lanky flexed bicep. In winter, ironwood’s one inch brown nutlets with flippant “wings” are also attractive. Ironwood is, as its name suggests, hard. Either single or multi-trunk, it grows about a foot a year to 20-30 feet, high in rich moist soil. It prefers acidic soil and will tolerate sun or shade sites. In summer, it rounds out the year with tidy beech-like leaves and few problems. Obtain container-grown not transplanted specimens.

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